Nibali takes back yellow as Contador crashes out of the Tour de France

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Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has wasted no time reclaiming the yellow jersey he lost on stage 9 of the Tour de France, taking a decisive win on the summit finish to La Planche des Belles Filles on stage 10 and moving back into the overall lead.
Overnight leader Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) fought gallantly on the 161km stage but ultimately struggled on the day’s seven climbs and fell from the top of the general classification.

It took roughly 25km of racing on stage 10 to establish the first meaningful breakaway of the day. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Jan Barta (NetApp-Endura) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) bridged across from the peloton to an earlier escape group, featuring Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Amael Moinard (BMC), Markel Irizar (Trek), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne-Seche) and Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale).

The 10 riders came together near the start the first of seven climbs for the day: the second category Col du Firstplan. Their gap at that point was roughly 4:30.

In pouring rain, Voeckler edged out Rodriguez for maximum KOM points on the climb before Peter Sagan crept off the front on the wet and technical descent. The Slovakian was off in search of the day’s intermediate sprint points which he would go on to secure roughly 10km over the top of that first climb.

Back on the Col du Firstplan a small group broke clear from the peloton: best young rider Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), his teammate and yesterday’s stage winner Tony Martin, Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), and the IAM Cycling pair of Reto Hollenstein and Marcel Wyss.

On the second climb of the day, 113km from the finish, Peter Sagan was dropped from the lead group, while the remaining leaders had 1:30 over the five chasers and 2:45 over the peloton. Gerard was soon dropped as well, leaving just eight in the lead group.

A little further up the climb Lieuwe Westra attacked his fellow leaders with only Rodriguez, Moinard, Visconti and Voeckler able to catch up, eventually.

A few kilometres before the summit of the Petit Ballon climb the five leaders were joined by Christoph Riblon and as the summit of the climb approached, the Kwiatkowski/Martin group was less than a minute behind. They picked up Sagan and Irizar who were both drifting backwards from the lead group, and continued to the top.

At the summit it was Joaquim Rodriguez who took the 10 KOM points on offer ahead of Thomas Voeckler, and behind them the Kwiatkowski group was just 25 seconds away from making contact. The two groups came together as they began the first category climb to the Col du Platzerwasel and at that moment Michal Kwiatkowski was the virtual leader on the road.

A couple of kilometres later, 96km from the finish, the 2014 Tour de France was turned on its head, as it had been when Chris Froome abandoned on stage 5. Alberto Contador crashed heavily near the bottom of the Petit Ballon climb and spent more than four minutes by the side of the road getting medical attention on an injured knee and changing his bike and shoes. The Spaniard appeared calm, but when he got going again he was more than four minutes behind the Astana-led peloton.

Contador’s teammates waited for him and helped pace him up the Col du Platzerwasel climb, but the two-time Tour de France winner was in trouble — he visited the doctor’s car at least once and his team car plenty of times before, eventually, abandoning the Tour de France.

After thanking his teammate Michael Rogers Contador pulled over to the side of the road and climbed into the team car, clearly dejected.

In the lead group Joaquim Rodriguez had taken the 10 KOM points on the Col du Platzerwasel with Thomas Voeckler again second across the top. By the time the leaders were on the fourth climb of the day, 62km from the finish, the gap to the peloton was 4:20 and just nine riders remained in the break: Kwiatkowski, Martin, Visconti, Moinard, Wyss, Voeckler, Rodriguez, Taaramae and Riblon.

Despite spending most of the previous stage off the front, much of it on his own, Tony Martin seemingly didn’t move from the front of the lead group. Over the climbs, down the other side, on the flats — the world time trial champion was doing it all, riding in support of his young Polish teammate.

The second category Col d’Orderen topped out 58km from the summit and, predictably, it was Rodriguez and Voeckler that sprinted clear of the Martin-led group to be the first two across the KOM, in that order.

Over the top of the fourth climb of the day and down towards the fifth it was still Tony Martin on the front of the escape group, while Astana was riding with real urgency in the main field, trying to close down the gap of 3:20 to the nine leaders.

At the top of the third-category Col des Croix, 36km from the end of the day, we saw the familiar sight of Rodriguez leading Voeckler to the summit once again.

With 25km left to race Team Sky had three riders on the front of the reduced peloton in support of Richie Porte while Movistar was coming to the fore as well. A few kilometres up the road the nine leaders hit the penultimate of the day with 2:20 up their sleeves.

The ascent of the Col de Chevreres, while short at 3.5km, was one of the hardest of the day and it didn’t take long for the climb to start whittling down the field even further. Tony Martin, finally, swung off the front of the lead group as the climb began, the elastic snapping in dramatic fashion. The German crawled his way up the climb, at barely more than walking pace, his job for the day well and truly done.

This left Kwiatkowski at the front to fend for himself, and soon the pace was too high for all but him, Visconti, Moinard, Voeckler and Rodriguez. Then, with a little less than 20km to go, Kwiatkowski had opened up a small gap on his companions and it was only Rodriguez and Visconti that were able to follow. Visconti soon cracked, leaving just two riders at the front.

Meanwhile in the main field, Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) was dangling off the back of the Astana-led group; as too was the maillot jaune, Tony Gallopin, and Pierre Rolland (Europcar).

With a kilometre to the summit of the Col des Chevreres Rodriguez moved clear of Kwiatkowski and 500m later Visconti rejoined the young Polish rider. Rodriguez was first over the category 1 climb while over the top Kwiatkowski was joined by Moinard as they began the descent toward the final climb of the day.

Astana led the ever-reducing main field over the climb before Michele Scarponi overshot a corner and collided with a spectator. He soon remounted though, and chased back on, rejoining Nibali at the head of the main field.

With 13.2km left to race Rodriguez, Visconti, Kwiatkowski and Moinard came back together, before Kwiatkowski drifted off the front on the final descent and into the lead. He was joined by Rodriguez with roughly 9km to go at which point the pair had 1:35 over an elite peloton that was steadily pulling back time.

The final climb to La Planche des Belles Filles began 5.9km from the finish and 600m into the climb Rodriguez attacked Kwiatkowski. With 3.7km to go Rodriguez had 28 seconds on the Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider and 1:13 over the peloton, but he was fading fast.

With 2.6km left to race Vincenzo Nibali stuck his nose in the wind for the first time in the stage, putting in a blistering attack from the main field and passing Kwiatkowski a short time later. Richie Porte (Sky) picked up the chase, with only five others able to take his wheel — Jean-Christopher Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr).

With 1.2km to the finish Nibali caught Rodriguez and the two rode together for a few hundred metres on the steep climb. And then Nibali attacked Rodriguez before riding away to his second stage victory of the race so far. A late attack from the chase group by Pinot saw the Frenchman take second on the stage, 15 seconds behind Nibali, while Valverde was third.

And so Vincenzo Nibali moves back into the overall lead just one stage after willingly releasing the jersey to Tony Gallopin. Richie Porte moves into second overall, 2:23 behind Nibali, with Alejandro Valverde a further 24 seconds back.

After dominating the climbs from the breakaway on stage 10 Joaquim Rodriguez now moves into the lead in the KOM classification. Peter Sagan meanwhile has nearly twice as many points as his nearest rival in the green jersey classification, Bryan Coquard, and will again wear green on stage 11.

Despite his valiant effort in the breakaway Michal Kwiatkowski ended up losing time by the end of the day and relinquishes the lead in the best young rider jersey to Romain Bardet.

But of course the biggest news of the day was that of Alberto Contador’s withdrawal from the race. With less than half the race completed both pre-race favourites are gone and Vincenzo Nibali is shaping up as the clear favourite from here. He might have been anyway given the form he’s currently in. Of course there’s still plenty of racing to go and just about anything can happen in the third week.

The riders will enjoy a well-earned rest day tomorrow ahead of Wednesday’s 11th stage, which runs from Besancon to Oyonnax and features four climbs, all within 50km of the finish.

Previous stage reports

– Stage 1: Marcel Kittel takes Tour opener as Cavendish and Gerrans crash
– Stage 2: Vincenzo Nibali wins in Sheffield and takes Tour lead overall
– Stage 3: Marcel Kittel doubles up in London, Nibali holds on to yellow
– Stage 4: Marcel Kittel claims his third stage as Vincenzo Nibali defends yellow
– Stage 5: Lars Boom wins on the cobbles of stage 5 as Chris Froome crashes out
– Stage 6: Andre Greipel sprints to victory on stage 6, Nibali holds steady in yellow
– Stage 7: Matteo Trentin wins in a photo finish, Nibali secures a sixth day in yellow
– Stage 8: Blel Kadri solos to stage 8 victory, Nibali holds lead after GC shakeup
– Stage 9: Tony Martin takes solo win as Tony Gallopin rides into yellow

Stage results

Rnk Rider Team Time
1
NIBALI Vincenzo NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team
Astana Pro Team 04:27:26
2
PINOT Thibaut PINOT Thibaut FDJ.fr
FDJ.fr 0:15
3
VALVERDE Alejandro VALVERDE Alejandro Movistar Team
Movistar Team 0:20
Rnk Rider Team Time
1
NIBALI Vincenzo NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team
Astana Pro Team 42:33:38
2
PORTE Richie PORTE Richie Team Sky
Team Sky 2:23
3
VALVERDE Alejandro VALVERDE Alejandro Movistar Team
Movistar Team 2:47
Rnk Rider Team Points
1
SAGAN Peter SAGAN Peter Cannondale
Cannondale 287
2
COQUARD Bryan COQUARD Bryan Team Europcar
Team Europcar 156
3
KITTEL Marcel KITTEL Marcel Team Giant - Shimano
Team Giant - Shimano 146
Rnk Rider Team Time
1
BARDET Romain BARDET Romain AG2R La Mondiale
AG2R La Mondiale 42:36:39
2
PINOT Thibaut PINOT Thibaut FDJ.fr
FDJ.fr 0:46
3
KWIATKOWSKI Michał KWIATKOWSKI Michał Omega Pharma - Quick-Step
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 1:38
Rnk Rider Team Points
1
RODRÍGUEZ Joaquim RODRÍGUEZ Joaquim Team Katusha
Team Katusha 51
2
VOECKLER Thomas VOECKLER Thomas Team Europcar
Team Europcar 34
3
MARTIN Tony MARTIN Tony Omega Pharma - Quick-Step
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 26
Rnk Team Time
1
AG2R La Mondiale
127:48:28
2
Astana Pro Team
3:19
3
Belkin-Pro Cycling Team
4:25

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